Perhaps Cornell’s ceaseless self-reflection is the best representation of multiplicity. We identify a central conflict or theme within the piece to be adapted. The surrealist movement focused on what the artist was thinking more than what the viewer should think. Therefore, Cornell became the central concentration of his work.
“He observed and described his dreams and his emotions, as well as cataloguing changes in his moods” (Blair 50).
This attention to detail within himself is similar to the focus on a central theme presented by Thiong’o.
The background image is land in Kenya which is meant to represent the lost land of the family and of the native Kenyans in general. The images on top are representing what is important to Njoroge, his brothers, his girlfriend, and other characters. Each image represents at least one concern of the people in the novel. Njoroge’s father spends his life working on land that used to belong to his ancestors because he believes that is will be returned to him someday. Kenya is in conflict due to the native resistance to colonization; an issue of ownership of land. Njoroge is putting so much faith into school and God because he believes that will lead him to a position in which he can help his family and country. All the other images in the blox are representations of the mixed story lines and concerns of characters. All of which leads to the issue of land. I have the images of the character’s concerns (a gun, a bag of money, books, love, and a cross) placed on top of pyrethrums. This type of daisy is grown by the white landowners in Kenya and Jacobo who is the only black man allowed to grown them. I have the same image repeated in four separate boxes because they are recurring desires within the novel. In other words, they are repeated multiple times.
Cornell identified himself with Meaulnes as a ‘seeker of visions.’ Through his job as a traveling salesman by bike in Manhattan, he had the opportunity to see and observe. This was important to his work because it provided inspiration. He enjoyed it so much that even after his job ended, “his habit of wandering did not” (Blair 61). Everything artistic comes from some sort of inspiration we collect from the brain’s database of experiences. If it hasn’t been experienced, it is invisible.
My blox for the quality visible captures a boy as he walks down a Kenyan road. My intention with this was for it to represent the path Njoroge takes to school. The small child on the road is actually a white boy though. I chose this to show how the white Europeans were the only truly privileged. Although Njoroge makes it further than any other boy from his village and surrounding areas, he does not make it as far as Stephen Howlands, the white boy from his area. There is a partially transparent image of a crying boy layered over the rest. The focus is on his eyes. The transparency has him looking out at us or looking into the photo. The land is slightly distorted. What we see depends on the eyes we see them through. I chose a film reel as a border in relation to Seger’s novel on adaptation. I feel that visibility is Calvino’s most significant quality when it comes to adapting a novel to film.
Joseph Cornell had the tendency to leave his works unnamed and undated, never wanting to commit to a finished product. He was, however, extremely detailed in his notes as part of his dossiers.
“In a significant entry in his dossier he includes a quotation from Jean Renoir: ‘I believe that during the past 50 yrs man has been losing contact with his physical senses and is becoming too intellectualized. The artist’s mission today, he noted elsewhere, is to recreate a direct contact between man and nature’, and Cornell goes on to discuss exact times and places where he experienced direct contact with nature” (Blair 48).
In order to draw upon his experiences, he needed to have exact notes. I like to think of the novel “Weep Not, Child” as my own dossier of exact evidence that I use to create these bloxes.
Calvino refers to the city as a complex emblem for exactitude. “A more complex symbol, which has given me greater possibilities of expressing the tension between geometric rationality and the entanglements of human lives, is that of the city” (Calvino 71). I decided to borrow this emblem from Calvino for the purpose that it expresses my feelings towards exactitude in Weep Not, Child. I chose London specifically because, for Njoroge, it is that far away promised land of education and opportunity. The colonists of Kenya are British so this would be a natural place for him to aspire to go. After all, they act as though they are better than him so he wants to learn from the best. In all the craziness of a bustling city, there is still an exactness about it. This is why if viewed closely, you can see a map of London over the picture of it. Every street corner is documented. That takes away some of the monstrosity of it. I also include a picture of Oxford, a British university with a cartoon finish. He’s never actually seen it, he only has an imagination of what it might be like. Lastly, I included some of the dialogue between Njoroge and Mwihaki. It shows how little he cares about the exactness of the city he travels to. All the land dominated by white people is the same to him. They speak English and are Christians. He models his life after this.
Joseph Cornell did not simply create these boxes; the collages of feelings. Every piece of art was a part of a complex process. He would create dossiers, or archives, of items relating to his inspiration. He collected things over immense periods of time to create something that could receive only a passing glance. He didn’t even finish a lot of his work.
“When we turn to Cornell’s public art, there is a great body of works that can be classified as existing somewhere between the dossier and the box construction, revealing that not everything reached a single, final, fixed form. His approach meant that it was very difficult to stop things flooding in once the process had been set in motion. Everything was fluent, fluid and contingent—part of the process” (Blair 29).
Cornell’s process is quick in that once his idea is sparked, he continuously adds to his collections. Yet, it can drag in that some of his work has no closure. We may never know his purpose behind many of his projects. Time has no beginning or end with Cornell.
For my blox, the background is a yinyang image constructed out of the planet earth. Kenya is not a peaceful place yet Njoroge sees the possibilities for it. Imposed on top of it is the evolution of man reversed on top of itself. I wanted to show how time is not static within a novel. It can go by slowly or skip years at a time. Weep Not, Child covers Njoroge’s adolescence. My copy is only 136 pages long yet it covers multiple years as he grows into a man, like the stereotypical evolution of man image. He does not reach a peak of knowledge with the end of the story, however. Instead, the last three pages describe his attempt at suicide directly before his mother stops him; leaving him to identify himself as a coward. Is his boyish innocence worse than the misery of his informed life? Regardless of life’s path, each person can be either a hero or a coward. Also significant is man’s restrictions on other races. I wanted to show the interchangeability of the labels we give others with what we see ourselves to be.
Joseph Cornell dedicated his work to exploring the creative mind. Always, his perspective and creative process is apparent in his boxes, just like an author can’t seem to escape their own outlooks when writing a novel. Cornell, although he would not agree with the categorization, is often considered to be a surrealist. This style of art emphasizes the process an artist goes through to arrive with the finished piece. “Within this overall approach, the function of art is very much to reveal to the creator (as much to anyone else) the actual workings of the mental and creative processes” (Blair 18).
In my blox representing Light, I wanted to embody the theme of hope that is common almost throughout the novel. First of all, the picture is framed by a chalkboard; significant to Njoroge’s obsession with education. He believes if he goes to school he can return to help his family and country regain their lost land. His education = his future, like the words written on the board. I have a background of a sunrise, a universal symbol of hope. There is a faint shadow of a couple holding hands to signify Njoroge and Mwihaki; their love always growing for each other. When Njoroge looses all other hope, he still relies on her. There is a cross in the center to represent Njoroge’s deep faith in Christianity which adds to his ceaseless positivity for the majority of the story. The coexist label shows Njoroge’s desire for everyone to get along. He sees how life can be when men treat each other as equals. I feel that Njoroge’s positivity adds lightness to the novel. Despite the incredible atrocities being committed around him, he can look towards the future. The reader sees this through his eyes and forgets the actual heaviness of the country’s problems. Regardless, this positivity is seen as a flaw in Njoroge therefore my blox has a bit of irony to it. For example, the sunrise could easily be a sunset representing a close to Njoroge’s hope. He does loose it by the end. Also, the coexist label it placed on a significantly larger cross as if to imply that even if people are tolerant of others, they still see themselves as right while everyone else is wrong.
The way I tie this all to Cornell is the process I went through to create this blox. Honestly, I didn’t think out each aspect of the collage. I saw something I found to be significant and tried it out. If it fit, it stayed. If something was off, I’d delete it and return to Google images, never knowing what I was looking for and what to type into the search box to find it. I’m still amazed with this blox because I really do think it is perfect to how I felt about lightness and the novel, all the while making me look like a wiz with photo editing software (trust me, I’m not). Only upon describing it to my unknown reader do I fully describe it to myself, which makes it all the more satisfying.